University at Buffalo

Behavioral Medicine Clinic


Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits

How well you and your doctor talk to each other is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. Unfortunately, talking to your doctor isn’t always easy. It takes time, effort, and a bit of skill on your part, as well as your doctor’s, to get the best care for your symptoms. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your doctor’s appointment:

Give information. Don’t wait to be asked.

  • You know important things about your symptoms and your health history. Tell your doctor what you think he or she needs to know.
  • It is important to tell your doctor personal information – even if it makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
  • Bring a health history list with you, and keep it up to date. You might want to make a copy of the form for each member of your family.
  • Always bring any medicines you are taking, or a list of those medicines (include when and how often you take them, and what strength). Talk about any allergies or reactions you have had to your medicines.
  • Tell your doctor about any herbal products you use or alternative medicines or treatments you may be taking.
  • Bring other medical information, such as x–ray films, test results, and medical records.

Get information.

  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you don’t, your doctor may think you understand everything that was said.
  • Write down your questions before your visit. List the most important ones first to make sure they get asked and answered.
  • You might want to bring someone along to help you ask questions. This person can also help you understand and/or remember the answers.
  • Ask your doctor to draw pictures if that might help to explain something.
  • Take notes.
  • Some doctors do not mind if you bring a tape recorder to help you remember things. But always ask first.
  • Let your doctor know if you need more time. If there is not time that day, perhaps you can speak to a nurse or physician assistant on staff. Or ask if you can call later to speak with someone.

Take information home.

  • Ask for written instructions.
  • Your doctor also may have brochures, audiotapes and videotapes that can help you. If not, ask how you can get such materials.

Once you leave the doctor’s office, follow up.

  • If you have questions, call your doctor.
  • If your symptoms get worse, or if you have problems with your medicine, call your doctor.
  • If you had tests and do not hear from your doctor, call for your test results.
  • If your doctor said you need certain tests, make appointments at the lab or other offices to get them done.
  • If your doctor requires you to see a specialist, make an appointment.

If you or someone you know is suffering from persistent pain, the Behavioral Medicine Clinic may be able to help. Contact us online or call us at 716–898–5671 to get the help you need.